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Top candidates of the Alliance 90/The Greens party Cem Ozdemir and Katrin Goering-Eckardt attend a news conference in Berlin, Germany September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Stefanie Loos(reuters_tickers)
By Gernot Heller and Michelle Martin
BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's Greens on Monday rejected a deal reached within Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative bloc to limit migrants to 200,000 a year, but said coalition talks should get under way anyway.
Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) appeared to make a concession to their conservative Bavarian allies on Sunday by agreeing to put a number on how many people Germany would accept per year on humanitarian grounds.
The compromise was seen as clearing the way for the conservatives to jointly start talks with the Greens and Free Democrats (FPD) on forming a "Jamaica" tie-up - the name deriving from the black, green and yellow colours of the three blocs, which match those of the Caribbean island's flag.
Cem Ozdemir, co-leader of the pro-migrant Greens, told the Funke group of newspapers the conservative compromise on migrants would not feature in any coalition deal.
"It's a formal compromise, which is at best borne by the CDU and CSU. It definitely won't appear in a possible coalition agreement," he said, adding the Greens wanted quick and fair processes for newcomers to Germany, effective integration measures and an immigration law with clear rules and criteria.
Exploratory talks between the conservatives, FDP and Greens are due to start on Wednesday Oct. 18, local newspaper Passauer Neue Presse cited negotiating sources as saying.
The Greens reject a cap on migrant arrivals that the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) has been advocating in view of an influx of 890,000 migrants in 2015 and 280,000 in 2016, with many of them entering the country via Bavaria.
Although arrivals are expected to drop further this year, the issue is expected to set sparks flying between the CSU and Greens in coalition talks.
Nonetheless Ozdemir urged the conservatives to quickly invite the FDP and Greens to exploratory talks on forming a coalition.
"We all need to just get started now," he said in an interview on ZDF television, adding the parties would then find out whether they can work together.
Senior CSU member Thomas Kreuzer told Deutschlandfunk radio the CSU expected what it had agreed with Merkel's CDU on Sunday to be in the coalition agreement. He said he could imagine scenarios whereby the number 200,000 might need to be adjusted.
The FDP said the conservative compromise had prepared the way for coalition talks.
"The foundations have been laid," Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, deputy head of the FDP, said on ZDF television.
The CDU and CSU agreed to push for an immigration law that would give priority to migrants with skills to plug gaps in the labour market - a move welcomed by Strack-Zimmermann.
But on the limit, she said there could be no compromises on the right to asylum.
The right to political asylum is in Article 16a of Germany's constitution and cannot be abolished. Merkel has previously said the fundamental right to asylum for those who are being persecuted for political reasons cannot be restricted.
(Reporting by Gernot Heller; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)